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NOMA Criticized for Hiring White Curator of African Art


The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) is facing considerable backlash after appointing a white woman as the new curator of African art.

Noma shared the news on Instagram on Friday.

“We’re excited to welcome Amanda M. Maples as NOMA’s new Françoise Billion Curator of African Art!,” the post began.

“Maples joins the museum this week and will oversee NOMA’s significant collection of historic African art, which is considered one of the most important in the United States. In her new role, Maples will create new installations and interpretive strategies for the museum’s permanent collection and expand the geographic and chronological scope of the African art collection with a contemporary vision.,” the caption continues.

Maples previously served as the curator of global African arts at the North Carolina Museum of Art. She also served as visiting faculty in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. As part of her new role, Maples will lead a museum staff team to organize an upcoming exhibit— “New Masks Now: Artists Innovating Masquerade in Contemporary West Africa.”

The exhibit is slated to open in 2025.

Noma did not anticipate a negative response to the news.

In response, the museum remarked that it could not speak on its hiring process. Still, it cited Maples’ “breadth of experience and emphasis on sustained collaboration with artists and institutions in Africa and around the world,” adding that these attributes “set her apart from other candidates.”

“We’re listening closely to feedback from New Orleans residents and the public on the appointment of the museum’s new Curator of African Art. We recognise the need for NOMA’s staff and the museum field at large to represent a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. We take this priority very seriously for positions throughout the institution…We are committed to taking this moment to learn and take action. In the immediate future, we will host a town hall to openly discuss race and equity within museums. We recognise that listening is only a small part of honouring our commitment to being an inclusive and anti-racist institution.”

However, Noma supporters were baffled as to why a Black academic, or at least one of color, was not offered the role. Although, this is not the first time Noma has made headlines in recent years for less-than-desirable reasons.

In the summer of 2020, during the height of protests over the police killing of George Floyd, several Noma employees—Jennifer Williams; Dr. fari nzinga; Ifátùmínínú Bamgbàlà Arẹ̀sà (formerly known as Kelsi Brooks); Jonathan Serrette; and Jane Kate Wood—penned an open letter, alleging that the institution fostered a culture of racism and representational disparity among its ranks. At the time, the museum pledged to change its culture.

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